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THE AMERICAN EDITION OF 1837.
Tais Volume is published with a view to present a complete and uniform Edition of the Poetical Works of William Wordsworth. It contains the poems in the latest collected edition and in the additional volume, entitled “ Yarrow Revisited and other Poems,” published in 1835. — The text has been adopted with great care from the London editions. To the contents of those volumes there have been added some res published since the date of the last volume, and the Description of the Scenery of the Lakes, written by Mr. Wordsworth some years ago.
When the Publishers were about beginning the preparation of this volume, a difficulty in regard to the arrangement of the poems presented itself, to which it is proper here to advert. — The recent volume “Yarrow Revisited, &c.” was prefaced by an advertisement in which Mr. Wordsworth stated his intention to have been to reserve the contents of the volume to be interspersed in some future edition of his miscellaneous Poems." The request of friends, however, and a delicate regard for the interests of the purchasers of his former works, induced the publication of the separate volume, in which the poems are printed without reference to the classification, which distinguishes the general collection of his poems. In preparing a complete and uniform edition, it was at once obvious that great incongruity would result from inserting after the former collection of Poems, as arranged by Mr. Wordsworth, the contents of the volume since published in an order wholly different. Such a course would have been in direct violation of the Poet's expressed intention, and would have betrayed an ignorance or distrust of his principles of classification, or a timidity in applying them. It would have been a method purely mechanical, and calculated to impair the effect of that philosophical arrangement, which was designed “as a commentary unostentatiously directing the attention of those, who read with reflection, to the Poet's purposes.” — Intelligent readers, familiar with the spirit of Wordsworth's poetry, would regret any violation of the harmony of his method : they could not be content, for instance, with any other arrangement of the miscellaneous Poems than that which the Poet has adopted, closing with the lofty Ode on the Intimations of Immortality.
In editing this volume, I have therefore ventured to adopt the only alternative which presented itself — to anticipate Mr. Wordsworth's unexecuted intention of interspersing the contents of the volume entitled "Yarrow Revisited, &c." among the poems already arranged by him. I have been guided by an attentive study of the principles of classification stated in his general Preface, and the character of each poem to which they were to be applied. In some instances special directions for arrangement had been given by the Poet himself; · these have been carefully followed. In many instances the close similarity between groups of the unarranged poems, and those which had been arranged, left little room for
With respect to the detached pieces, it has been felt to be a delicate undertaking to decide under which class each one of them should be appropriately arranged. This has heen attempted with an anxious sense of the care' it required, though with an assurance
that there was no possibility of impairing the individual interest of any of the poems. It may
be added that no one would feel more grieved at any injury done by a false arrangement than he who claims to have brought to the task an affectionate solicitude for every verse in the volume.
A few notes have been introduced, consisting almost entirely of illustrative passages from the writings of those with whom I am confident Mr. Wordsworth, from congeniality of mind or feeling, or from personal friendship, would most willingly find his name associated. That these notes may in a moment be distinguished from the Poet's own, they have been included in brackets, and designated with the addition of the initial letters of the Editor's name. They have been limited in number by an anxiety to avoid encumbering the text; which consideration has also regulated the general arrangement of notes throughout the volume.
Pains have been taken to indicate typographically, in a manner more clear than in any former edition, the general classification of the Poems. — The Prose writings have been arranged, together with the Description of the Scenery of the Lakes, in an Appendix, for the greater convenience of reference, and from a regard to their value.
A Poet of the age of Queen Elizabeth, looking to the then unbroken shores of America, jound a new impulse for the English Muse, and foresaw a boundless scope for the English tongue:
“And who (in time) knows whither we may vent
In preparing this Edition of the Poetical Works of Wordsworth for the press, it has deen a pleasing thought that in no instance could that anticipation — not quite a prophecy - of the “well-languaged Daniel,” have been better fulfilled, than in the publication of the writings of one, who, while incomparably superior in genius, is closely kindred to him in right-minded habits of reflection and in purity and gentleness of heart.
PHILADELPHIA, December, 1836.
This note is intended to give, for the convenience of the reader, a statement of a few of the facts of Wordsworth's life, and career of authorship.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH was born on the 7th of April, 1770, at Cockermouth, a small town in Cumberland, in the north of England ; and the early part of his life was spent in that region of lake and mountain, which was to be the happy home of his manhood and old age. His school education was received at Hawkshead Grammar School. In 1787 he entered St. John's College, Cambridge, where he received his Bachelor's degree; it was during his college life, he made a tour in the Alps, which was the occasion of his “ Descriptive Sketches,” and which forms also the subject of the sixth book of “The Prelude" - a later part of which poem treats of his second visit to the Continent, and his residence in France, during the first part of the Revolution. In 1798, in company with his sister, Dorothea (to whose influence upon his life and character he has paid fervent tribute in " The Prelude," and elsewhere) and with his friend Coleridge, he made a tour in Germany, His visits to the Continent again, in 1820 and in 1837, are known by his “ Memorials" of the Tours in those years.
In the year 1802, Mr. Wordsworth was married to Miss Mary Hutchinson: she survives him, retaining in a beautiful old age " that Christian calmness and gentleness and love whiclı” (in the words of one who witnessed what he speaks of) " made her almost like the Poet's guardian angel for near fifty years."
At the beginning of the century the Poet's residence was at Grasmere, but after some years was removed to the neighbourhood of Ambleside; and the cottage at Rydal Mount became the home of all his after years on Earth.
Wordsworth's literary life, as an author, extended through a period of about sixty years, -the earliest date affixed to any of his pieces being 1786, and the latest 1846. His first publication was “ An EVENING WALK” addressed to his sister: it appeared in 1793, and was soon followed in the same year by the “ DESCRIPTIVE SKETCHES:" these were printed in quarto, with the author's name -“W. Wordsworth, B. A., of St. John's, Cambridge,” and were published by J. Johnson, St. Paul's Churchyard, from whose press had issued, only nine years before, Cowper's “Task.” In 1798, a volume of the “Lyrical Ballads” was published anonymously, and in 1800 was succeeded by a second volume having the author's name. This collection in 1805 had reached a fourth edition. An American edition of the Lyrical Ballads was published in Philadelphia as early as 1802. The various reception, which was given to those Poems - the thoughtful and genial welcome on the one part, and the scornful condemnation on the other, and their influence upon poetic thought and feeling, would form the subject of an instructive chapter in the history of English poetry in the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1807 were published two more volumes of Poems, with the motto
Posterius graviore sono tibi Musa loquetur
Nostra : dabunt cum securos mihi tempora fructus. In 1809 Wordsworth published the prose work, to which reference will be found in several places in this volume: the title of the work is “Concerning the Relations of Great Britain, Spain and Portugal to each other, and to the common enemy at this crisis; and specifically as affected by the Convention of Cintra : the whole brought to the test of those principles, by which alone the Independence and Freedom of nations can be preserved or recovered.” - This work, it is said, Mr. Canning spoke of as the most eloquent production of the kind since the days of Burke.
In 1814, “The EXCURSION" was given to the world; in 1815 there followed “The White Doe of Rylstone,” and two voluines including the “ Lyrical Ballads,” and other miscellaneous poems.
A third volume of miscellaneous poems was made up of
the “ Thanksgiving Ode,” in 1816, “ Peter Bell” and “The Waggoner," in 1819, and “ The River Duddon," with other pieces, in 1820. To this volume was appended the prose description of the Lake Country.
In 1822 appeared the “Ecclesiastical Sketches" and the Memorials of a Tour in 1820.” In 1820 and 1832 collective editions of the Poems were published, and were followed in 1835 by the volume entitled " Yarrow Revisited and other Poems.” The subsequent publications and editions are those mentioned in the Preface to this Edition. The list of Wordsworth's prose writings may be completed by the mention here, of his " Letter to a Friend of Robert Burns," published in London, 1816, and his “Two Letters on the Kendal and Windermere Railway, reprinted from the Morning Post," London, 1844-5.
The more the whole course of Wordsworth's life shall become known, the more will it be seen that it was a life devoted, in a deep and abiding sense of duty, to the cultivation of a poet's endowments and art, for their noblest and most lasting uses — a self-dedication as complete as the world has ever witnessed. It was a life to which was given the earthly reward of length of days and of a large share of happiness. There was in this life, the further reward of an ample fame,--a fame which moved, as it were, on the wings of spiritual gratitude and thoughtful affection. The contumely, which had been cast upon him from the critic's chair in former years, was looked back to as a wonder and a wrong in the history of criticism ; his poetry was recognised as one of the great literary influences upon the minds and hearts of his fellow beings; and the circle of admirers, who had clung to the fortunes of that poetry through evil and good report, was widened over the world. These things the Poet was permitted to see in his mortal life.
Of the popular sentiment towards Wordsworth in late years, the feeling displayed on his reception at Oxford in 1839 is but one of many manifestations. The genuine fervour of the feeling inspired the lines composed by Talfourd on that occasion : it sank too as deeply into the earnest spirit of the late Dr. Arnold, who wrote “ I went up to Oxford to the commemoration, for the first time in twenty-one years, to see Wordsworth and Bunsen receive their degrees; and to me, remembering how old Coleridge inoculated a little knot of us with the love of Wordsworth, when his name was in general a by-word, it was striking to witness the thunders of applause, repeated over and over again, with which he was greeted in the theatre by Undergraduates and Masters of Arts alike.” Letter, July 6, 1839. (The epithet "old" in this extract, is one of familiar affection for a college-mate - now Sir John Taylor Coleridge, one of the Justices of the Court of Queen's Bench.)
After the death of his friend Southey in 1843, Wordsworth was appointed to succeed him as Poet Laureate — an office, now restored to respect by the successive tenure of Southey, Wordsworth, and Tennyson.
The close of Wordsworth's life was saddened by the death of his only daughter,-Dora, the wife of Edward Quillinan, Esq. Her father's house had been the home of her life except during a short period, in which she was withdrawn from it by her marriage; she was the author of a “ Journal of a few months' residence in Portugal,” published in 1847. The visit to the South of Europe was for the restoration of her health ; but in vain. Her death took place on the 9th of July, 1847, at the residence of her father. This bereavement the severest affliction of his life, and in old age - weighed heavily upon his spirits: it is believed that he did not recover from this sorrow during the very few years that he was parted from his daughter. Two sons survive him, the Rev. John Wordsworth and William Wordsworth, Esq.
Wordsworth died at Rydal Mount, 'on the 23d of April 1850, about a fortnight after his 80th birth-day. The harmony of his life was completed by the possession of faculties, unimpaired by disease or age. He lived and died in communion with the Church, to which his life as well as his writings had proved a faithful and filial attachment. Ilis body sleeps in Grasmere Churchyard.
The duty of preparing a biography of the Poet has been appropriately confided to his nephew, the Rev. Christopher Wordsworth, D.D., Canon of Westminster.